Anne Appelbaum’s 1 Dec broadside in the Washington Post is good in parts:
The "it's-all-an-American-plot" arguments circulating in cyberspace again demonstrate something that the writer Christopher Hitchens, himself a former Trotskyite, has been talking about for a long time: At least a part of the Western left -- or rather the Western far left -- is now so anti-American, or so anti-Bush, that it actually prefers authoritarian or totalitarian leaders to any government that would be friendly to the United States. Many of the same people who found it hard to say anything bad about Saddam Hussein find it equally difficult to say anything nice about pro-democracy demonstrators in Ukraine. Many of the same people who would refuse to condemn a dictator who is anti-American cannot bring themselves to admire democrats who admire, or at least don't hate, the United States. I certainly don't believe, as President Bush sometimes simplistically says, that everyone who disagrees with American policies in Iraq or elsewhere "hates freedom." That's why it's so shocking to discover that some of them do. (full text here)
Appelbaum’s argument – picked up by Arts & Letters, which loves to bash “the left” – is mostly sound. It would be stronger if she were more specific in identifying the critics and the flaws in their arguments.
And it fails to distinguish The Guardian newspaper from some of the crankier Trotskyites (including, for example, overview here, and in their own words here) who contribute to Guardian coverage as a whole.
For The Guardian also publishes Timothy Garton-Ash (against the views of some its own editors?). And on 2 Dec, the day after Appelbaum’s broadside, Garton Ash published Six questions to the critics of Ukraine's orange revolution. It is altogether superior to Applebaum’s (but has not picked up by Arts& Letters).
Garton-Ash provides detail on the by-no-means-only-leftist sceptics of the Ukrainian revolution, and a stronger critique than Applebaum. Further, his questions are focused and relate to what practically can be done focuses – especially by Europeans.
Garton-Ash's sixth rhetorical question is: "If you don't like the Americans taking the lead in Ukraine, why don't we?". He answers:
To some extent we already are. At the negotiating tables in Kiev [on 1 Dec], there was Javier Solana from Brussels, the Polish and Lithuanian presidents, and a senior Russian official, but not, so far as I know, any senior American. And that's right. This is a version of our European model of peaceful revolution, with the aim of rejoining Europe, not America.
Reading Garton-Ash’s piece and much else in the last few days, I realised that I may have been overhasty – in this blog on 24 Nov – to express doubts that other Europeans would play a timely and constructive role in the Ukrainian revolution.
One good outcome of my concern, however, was to apply pressure for openDemocracy to reflect seriously on the matter, and I was pleased when on 25 Nov – thanks to Anthony Barnett, Anatol Lieven and David Hayes – openDemocracy published a piece by Alexander Motyl under a title I suggested, Ukrainians become citizens (The article is here. On 26 Nov, Motyl published another powerful piece in the IHT, EU Hypocrisy Must End).
When first reading Motyl’s piece for oD on 24 Nov ahead of publication I was encouraged, but a little doubtful of his optimism. Was it not too soon to call the revolution in favour of the opposition?
So far, Motyl's optimism has largely been borne out. The Ukrainian opposition has won most rounds, and at least some non-Ukrainian Europeans have played a constructive role.
Marek Matraszek makes the case for part of this in his 2 Dec contribution to openDemocracy, Ukraine, Poland, and a free world. (Matraszek came to openDemocracy via Roger Scruton).
Matraszek castigates the Franco–German preference for what they misconceived as “stability” over “chaos”, and argues that Polish involvement – by both former Soviet collaborators and those who fought against them – has been important and constructive in the Ukrainian revolution:
Walesa’s brief visit to Kiev…underlined the link between the “orange revolution” and Solidarity’s own traditions, which share important common themes: their peaceful nature, an uncompromising demand for dignity and freedom, and a desire for statehood independent of Russian tutelage. That is why Poland’s other current opposition parties – Civic Platform (PO) and Law & Justice (PiS) – feel at home in Kiev, helping Yushchenko in his campaign.
…[Polish President] Kwasniewski’s presence indicated less his undivided support for the ideals of Ukraine’s revolution, and more his recognition that the long–term interests of the country’s elite are best served by an ordered withdrawal under some “roundtable” compromise – of which Kwasniewski and other Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) politicians engaged in have ample experience. If Kuchma and Yanukovych listen to the counsel of their Polish ex–communist friends, they may yet be able to survive personally if not politically; but if they resist the popular, democratising wave, they may face a more humiliating fate. In either case, the Ukrainian future is orange.
Returning to the inadequacy of Applebaum’s attack on the Trotskyist cranks and others, it was good to see Tim Whewell’s report for BBC2’s Newsnight on 3 Dec. As ever, first-rate reporting and analysis from this outstanding journalist.
Whewell’s investigation into outside support for the revolution went straight to the point. He talked to key Independence Square organisers and the students in Pora, who had received support and training from Otpor.
He set out the figures for involvement by Western agents and powers in building up Ukrainian civil society and the opposition movement over the last few months and years. (As I recall, he said this includes US $3m from Freedom House which neo-conservative connections, and some $14m from the US government), and some $20 to 40m via the International Renaissance Fund, which is backed by George Soros, an implacable foe of the neo-cons and the US government.
Whewell also pointed out that there was reasonable transparency on these sums – in contrast to the hundreds of millions in slush funds available to the Ukrainian government and their Russian backers.
Whewell, Garton-Ash, Motyl and some others are vital allies in a struggle against those – on “the left”, “the right” and in the muddy centre – who lack either the ability or the willingness to bring both adequate intellectual capacity and full humanity to bear on the matters at hand.